Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer A Chubbie Farewell

By Mark Jordan

APRIL 5, 1999:  No sooner have the Chubbies arrived, it seems, than they’re packing their bags and getting ready to leave. Their work here is done.

The California punk duo first moved to Memphis six months ago, following the promise of free studio time at Cotton Row Studios. Now with a new CD, Your Favourite Everything, ready for release on Sympathy For The Record Industry, the Chubbies are preparing to go on tour and then head back home. Behind them, guitarist Jeanette Kantzalis and drummer Christene Kings – they hesitate when you ask them their surnames, they use them so rarely – leave a trail of empty coffee cups and broken hearts.

“The guys here are really different,” says Jeanette. “They court you without you knowing it. They’ll be coming over for a couple of weeks and next thing you know you’re on a date. I guess where we come from, people are a little more direct.”

But except for the shy men and the occasional racist comment, the Chubbies found Memphis to be a surprisingly nurturing place.

“Memphis has been great. The arts community here is small but very tight-knit,” says Jeanette. “All the other bands we’ve met – the Subteens, the Verbs, Deathray, Saliva – have been really helpful. That’s one thing about the bands here. They’re different from bands in other cities. They’re a lot more giving. They’re always willing to share their audiences and advice.”

That’s an attitude the Chubbies aren’t used to from the California music scene, where they say bands are too caught up in their own egos.

“California musicians expect things to just be handed to them,” says Christene. “They want all the reward without having to do any of the work.”

But from the beginning, the Chubbies have been willing to do the dirty work required to get their music heard. Jeanette and Christene first joined forces four years ago in Southern California. Jeanette had just left a band because she “was looking for an attitude and an energy that I just wasn’t getting from them.” Christene was a wannabe drummer with a few years of high-school band under her belt (she shared time-keeping duties with three “jazz heads”) when she answered Jeanette’s advertisement looking for women to join a new group.

“I was looking for someone I could be comfortable with,” Jeanette says. “That’s the most important part about being in a band – getting along with the other people. I was looking for someone who was kind of from my own background. We’re both from Southern California. Working class. My parents were immigrants. Her parents were immigrants. We just really clicked.”

Extroverts who enjoy messing with other people, the pair were matched in personality as well. Four weeks after meeting, the Chubbies had put out their own record and had booked their own tour.

Except for a few months in 1996 when they were joined by a third Chubbie, Kelly, who can be heard on the CD Tres Flores, it’s been Jeanette and Christene ever since. They’ve toured Europe, played CBGB’s, and opened for El Vez, a gig they say taught them all about the importance of showmanship. Their biggest gig to date was with “punk” band the Offspring in front of 4,000 people in Milwaukee. (They say they were booed and then the Offspring’s personal trainer got mad at them when they broke into the beer supply and decided to go-go dance on stage during the headliner’s set.) They’ve also appeared on four compilation CDs and put out 11 7-inch singles, a pair of tape-only releases, a CD EP, and three full-length CDs. In short, they’ve been amazingly prolific.

Your Favourite Everything has the same sonic formula as the Chubbies’ earlier releases, an enticing combination of sweet ’60s girl-group melodies and cranked-up punkish guitars. It’s a sound that Jeanette, who learned guitar specifically for this band and who grew up listening to Prince, says is entirely unplanned.

“I don’t know if we ever really meant to be punk,” says Jeanette. “We just got thrown into that scene because we were so raw. Basically punk can be anything now. Punk is anything that is poor, stripped down.”

The new CD, which features guest appearances by the Subteens’ Mark Akin and Jay Hines as well as Cotton Row’s Nikos Lyras, is notable because it features Christene’s first on-record composition, “The Darkest One Of All,” a warning to any potential suitors from a strong-minded woman.

But any listeners expecting some Memphis-inspired songs on Your Favourite Everything will have to wait.

“What I’m working on now is more influenced by being here,” says Jeanette, the group’s chief songwriter. “So, you’ll hear about what I think about you guys on the next album. … The South. You guys have your things.”

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